Archive for November, 2010

Redskins get passing grades at halfway mark; McNabb and Shanahan each get a B-

November 7, 2010

At the midway point of the season, the Redskins are 4-4 and have as many wins as they had all of last season.  Coach Mike Shanahan has improved the discipline and attitude of the players, and the Redskins are 2-0 in the NFC East.  But before calling this season a success so far, remember that last year’s team lost several close games, and when coach Jim Zorn was stripped of play calling duties, it signified Washington essentially throwing in the towel.  Otherwise the 2009 Redskins might have easily won seven or eight games.

With that in mind, here are the Redskins’ mid-term grades.  There aren’t any A’s but no units have failed either.

Quarterback: B-.  At first glance, Donovan McNabb isn’t having a great season.  His passer rating of 76.0 is the worst of his career and his accuracy has been up and down.  The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback has more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven).  However, McNabb is playing behind a porous offensive line with inconsistent, inexperienced running backs and a receiving corps that is one of the worst in the NFL.  Still, McNabb’s leadership has helped Washington to as many wins as it had all of last season, and he has already become the Redskins’ best deep passer since Mark Rypien played nearly 20 years ago.  There may also be something to what coach Mike Shanahan says about McNabb being banged up and having hamstring problems, because power and accuracy on throws stem from the legs.

McNabb has also had to learn a new offense as well that is very different than the short passing game he ran in Philadelphia.  Despite media reports that McNabb will move on via free agency at the end of the year because of his recent benching by Shanahan, there’s no reason he can’t stay and in fact it would be hard to find a better option in free agency or coming out of college.

Here are a few other excerpts from my article on Examiner.com:

Wide Receivers: D. Santana Moss is a solid pro and is having his usual strong season but is best suited to being a number two or slot receiver.  Moss’ 48 receptions are 19 more than the rest of the team’s receivers combined.  Other than Moss, this may be the thinnest receiving corps in the league.

Cornerbacks: B-.  Carlos Rogers is a solid cover corner but couldn’t catch a cold if he spent the season teaching kindergarten.

Coaching: B-. Shanahan is a good football coach who wins games.  Unfortunately, his alter ego, “Shenanigan,” plays games that hurt the team.

For the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

 

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Shanahan’s bizarre decision to bench McNabb still makes no sense

November 4, 2010

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman was unexpected, and, perhaps, indefensible. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman with less than two minutes to go and the Redskins down by six in Sunday’s 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions was indefensible.  See my article on Examiner.com here.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.  First, Shanny said McNabb didn’t have as good of a command of the 2-minute offense as Grossman.  Then he said something about McNabb not being in good cardiovascular shape because of injuries.  Let’s face it – the whole thing is weird.  McNabb hasn’t played that well, but the Skins don’t exactly have a good running game, a passable receiving corps, or even a solid offensive line.  And the defense gives up tons and tons of yards. (So much for the technical analysis in this article).

Maybe Shanahan is trying to show the team that no one is above anyone else.  He messed with Albert Haynesworth by not playing him against the Colts, benched Derrick Dockery, and cut Devin Thomas. And at other times during the season, Haynesworth has played sparingly, despite the fact that he has shown he can be dominant against both the pass and the run.

Washington traded for McNabb last spring for these moments, because he has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL for the last decade. Grossman is a journeyman, he hadn’t played in a regular season game since last year, and he is known as a streaky player.  McNabb has a reputation as a leader, and already led a comeback this season against Green Bay.  No quarterback has more 50-yard passes this season than McNabb, and with no timeouts, long passes would have been critical.

McNabb has made the Redskins a significantly better team than they were in 2009, already leading Washington to as many victories as it had all last season.

One scary possibility on this Halloween is that the decision came from up above.  Last year, in a bizarre, unprecedented move, Redskins owner Dan Snyder took away coach Jim Zorn’s play-calling duties and hired former NFL offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis to call plays from the booth.  Lewis had been calling bingo games since his retirement in 2004. If a frustrated Snyder hastily gave orders to Shanahan to replace McNabb with Grossman late in the game, Shanahan should have ignored him and dared him to fire him.

Of course, any talk of Snyder’s involvement is purely speculative, and it’s much more likely that Shanahan is sending a message to the team with these moves, that it doesn’t matter your draft pedigree, and that even McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, can be benched for poor performance.  But it’s not loyal to your franchise quarterback to pull him late in a close game.  It’s insulting. It’s very doubtful that former Hog Russ Grimm would have made that decision had he been head coach.

To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.